University of South Carolina

Solomon-Tenenbaum Lectureship on Grant, Jews

A little-known order by Civil War Gen. Ulysses S. Grant remains the most notorious anti-Jewish official order in American history. This order and a broader discussion of human rights during the American Civil War will be the subject of this year’s Solomon-Tenenbaum Lectureship, to be held Tuesday, Oct. 26, at the University of South Carolina.

Dr. Jonathan D. Sarna
Dr. Jonathan D. Sarna

Dr. Jonathan D. Sarna, the Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University, will deliver the main lecture, titled “Ulysses S. Grant and the Jews: An Untold Story,” at 8 p.m. in Gambrell Hall auditorium.

Earlier that day, Sarna will join three USC historians in an afternoon symposium titled “Human Rights and the American Civil War.” The panel will take place from 1:30 – 2:45 p.m. in Lumpkin Auditorium, located on the eighth floor of the Darla Moore School of Business.

Moderated by Dr. Stanley Dubinsky, director of the Jewish Studies Program, the panel will feature Sarna and USC historians Dr. Thomas Brown, Dr. Bobby Donaldson and Dr. Mark Smith.

The lecture and symposium are free and open to the public.

Sarna’s evening lecture will center on an order issued by Grant on Dec. 17, 1862, as the Civil War entered its second winter. The “General Orders #11” called for the expulsion of “Jews as a class” from the union general’s war zone.

“Grant’s order came in response to widespread smuggling during the Civil War, for which Jews were blamed,” said Sarna. “Of course, many people, including Grant’s own father, were smuggling, and Jews formed far less than one percent of the population. The order was discussed a bit when it was issued and again when President Lincoln overturned it a few weeks later, but it became an important issue in the 1868 presidential election when Grant ran for the presidency.”

Sarna says Grant apologized in 1868 and thereafter was quite sensitive toward Jewish concerns. As president, Grant made more Jewish appointments than any previous president, attended a synagogue dedication, spoke up on behalf of persecuted Jews in Russia and Romania and was the first president to visit the Holy Land.

Sarna says much can be learned from this chapter of American and Jewish history.

“The story of Grant and the Jews shows how a person can change from being, in Jewish eyes, one of their worst enemies (responsible for the most anti-Semitic public act in U.S. history) to one of their best friends,” he said. “America has long been a country where religious hatred is possible, but where redemption is likewise possible. Grant’s order #11, expelling Jews from his war zone, tested America. Ultimately, America passed the test.”

Sarna, listed among America’s 50 most influential American Jews by The Forward newspaper in 2004, served as chief historian for the 350th commemoration of the American Jewish community and is recognized as a leading commentator on American Jewish history, religion and life. He is director of Brandeis’ Hornstein Program in Jewish Professional Leadership.

The Solomon-Tenenbaum Lectureship in Jewish Studies is funded by Judith and the late Melvin Solomon of Charleston and Samuel and Inez Tenenbaum of Columbia. Speakers have included Elie Wiesel, Thomas Cahill, Deborah Lipstadt and Thomas Friedman. It is one of the premiere lectureships of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Jewish Studies Program and the university.

For more information on the Solomon-Tenenbaum Lectureship, visit the website – http://www.cas.sc.edu/ – or call Ann Cameron at 803-777-9201.

Solomon-Tenenbaum Lectureship

  • What: Annual lecture series focusing on Jewish studies
  • Who: Dr. Jonathan D. Sarna, Brandeis University, to deliver main lecture, titled “Ulysses S. Grant and the Jews: An Untold Story”
  • When: Tuesday, Oct. 26, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Gambrell Hall auditorium

By Office of Media Relations

Posted: 10/05/10 @ 2:05 PM | Updated: 10/26/10 @ 4:23 PM | Permalink